December 15, 1953 - January 9, 2013
Lloyd Mitchell Gill was born on December 15, 1953 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Mitch grew up in a loving family which included four sisters and three brothers. At some point, Mitch's family moved about 2-1/2 hours east of Shreveport, where he graduated from Pioneer High School in 1971. After high school, Mitch enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for four years. At the completion of his military service Mitch moved to Austin, Texas.
Mitch became involved in many organizations, but his real loves were the International Imperial Court System (IICS), and the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). Mitch held many titles in both organizations, and served as a role model for hundreds.
In 1993, Mitch, was a member of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association (TGRA) when, as DeShannon, she became First Runner Up for Miss TGRA. While living in Austin, Mitch also became involved with the formation of that city's Imperial Court. In 1994, two sets of Monarchs were put in place for Reign I. DeShannon was one of those first two Empresses. Later in that year, DeShannon won the Miss TGRA title, and therefore resigned her Empress I title so that she could focus on appearances around the rodeo circuit. DeShannon's efforts paid off, and in 1995, DeShannon won her first Miss IGRA title.
Mitch didn't seem to stay in one place very long! In 1996, Mitch received the IGRA Director's Award while a member of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association, and shortly after that he moved to Las Vegas, where he became a member of the Nevada Gay Rodeo Association (NGRA). Since there was no Imperial Court in Las Vegas at that time, DeShannon quickly became involved with the local community to help organize the Imperial Court of All Southern Nevada. In its first year, the Imperial Chapter was considered a Barony, and in 1997, DeShannon became the First Elected Baroness of All Southern Nevada; following in 1998 as the First Elected Empress of All Southern Nevada.
Mitch was not always in the role of DeShannon. Mitch was also volunteering as an Official Timer at many rodeos, and then began training to become a Certified Scorekeeper. Mitch followed that by becoming a Certified Rodeo Secretary.
But DeShannon never stayed in the closet for very long! In 1998, she won the title of Miss Nevada Gay Rodeo Association (NGRA), and in 1999 she became the only person to win the Miss IGRA title two times! Then another move for a short stay in Long Beach, California, where in 2000, DeShannon won the title of Empress XXX of the International Imperial Court of Long Beach.
Mitch's next relocation was to Reno, Nevada. Reno was the birthplace of the National Reno Gay Rodeo back in 1976, and those rodeos were held every year until 1984. In 1987, the IGRA was represented in Reno with the organization of the Silver State Gay Rodeo Association. It only lasted a few years, and though they planned to produce the 1988 IGRA Finals Rodeo in Reno it was canceled at the last moment (see IGRA History). Mitch was determined to bring Gay Rodeo back to Reno, and in 2002 he was the catalyst for organizing a new IGRA Member Association - the High Sierra Rodeo Association (HSRA). It took a few years, but with Mitch as President, the HSRA was able to produce its first rodeo in 2004, and a second rodeo in 2005. Mitch was also the Rodeo Director for both of those Comstock Stampede Rodeos.
Mitch then moved back to Las Vegas, and in 2008 was the Rodeo Director for the 12th Annual BigHorn Rodeo. Mitch received the IGRA President's Award for his service as the Awards/Events Director for the 2008 IGRA Finals Rodeo held in Denver. In 2009, DeShannon served again as Miss NGRA, and in 2010 was the Miss IGRA 1st Runner Up.
By the fall of 2009, Mitch had moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where he was involved with the formation of the Iowa Gay Rodeo Association (IAGRA), which was seated at the 2010 IGRA Annual Convention. In May 2012, Mitch achieved one of his long time dreams when he opened his own flower and antique shop in Montezuma, Iowa. At the time of his passing, Mitch was the President of Iowa Gay Rodeo Association, as well as Iowa Trustee on the IGRA Board of Directors.
It is hard to imagine that Mitch had time to be the IGRA Vice-President from 2004 - 2007. With all of his activities, he had to be at an IGRA rodeo event or Imperial Court function almost every weekend of the year. Mitch consistently inspired people to get involved, try something new, or to support a special cause, group, or event. No one knows exactly how much money Mitch / DeShannon raised for charities throughout his lifetime, but it has been estimated to be between $750,000 and $1,000,000.
Mitch passed away January 9, 2013. Mitch's accomplishments were widely known, but not often publicly acknowledged. Some of the ways Mitch has been remembered since his death include: dedication of the Las Vegas "BigHorn Rodeo 16" in May 2013; Grand Marshal of the 2013 World Gay Rodeo Finals; and this induction into the IGRA Hall of Fame. Mitch will long be remembered by so many who knew and loved him. Please let the life he led remind you that giving to your community is an honor and a privilege.